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Nutrition Assistance Program Draws Payer Support

By Christopher Cheney  
   April 17, 2017

A Massachusetts nonprofit is building a data-supported financial case to demonstrate that nutrition-intervention services are beneficial to patients and payers.

For frail patients with multiple chronic medical conditions, eating is a crucial part of their treatment.

"In America, a third of patients enter hospitals malnourished. The stay for those patients is three times longer and three times as costly. If you could address patient malnutrition at home, you could have a significant impact on re-hospitalization rates, on ER visits, on healthcare costs, and on clinical outcomes," says David Waters, CEO of Boston-based Community Servings.

The organization, which was founded 28 years ago to provide medically tailored meals for AIDS patients, today prepares about 2,500 meals per day for patients with any of about three dozen illnesses.

"Much like a pharmaceutical prescription, it is a food prescription. We can take our 17 medical diets, and we can customize them in up to three different ways; so, you are getting exactly the kinds of foods your doctor wants you to eat."

About three years ago, the leadership of Community Servings realized demand for nutritional-intervention services in New England could not be met through the organization's philanthropically based business model, Waters says.

Gathering Data

"We are a $6.5 million organization. About $4 million of that comes from philanthropy, but we can't raise the money fast enough to meet the demand. We are based in Boston and feed about 1,800 people a year in 20 cities across Massachusetts. We are the only medically tailored meals program in the six New England states."

To develop a more robust business model that includes financial support from healthcare payers, Community Servings is gathering data to show the significant return on investment from boosting patient nutrition.

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.

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